Riverside Fire 3% contained, reinforcements preparing to withdraw

Wildfires

PORTLAND, Ore, (KOIN) — Here are the latest updates surrounding the Riverside Fire in Clackamas County:

Outside resources preparing to withdraw

3:30 p.m.

Fire, law enforcement and disaster management officials held a briefing Wednesday afternoon, discussing progress made against the Riverside Fire and several smaller fires.

The Riverside Fire is still just 3% contained, but incident commander Alan Sinclair said that’s a large number for a fire that’s more than 135,000 acres large. Reaching full containment will be a long process, Sinclair said.

However, some of the reinforcements will soon leave the area.

“We’re going to be turning the fire back over to the local resources starting tomorrow afternoon and we’ll withdraw the state resources,” said Ted Kunze with the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Kunze said the extra task forces allowed local fire departments to give their crews a break and rehabilitate their equipment.

The Wilhoit Fire, Unger Fire, and Graves Road fire are all 100% lined and crews are continuing mop up operations, as well as removing hazardous trees. The Dowty Fire, which has burned approximately 1,452 acres in the Estacada area, is only 30% lined, but has not moved or grown in the last couple of days, Kunze said.

Sheriff Craig Roberts also addressed crime concerns and the issue of armed citizens allegedly stopping people, even pointing guns at them.

“That is a crime,” Roberts said, adding that these cases “will be investigated” and that anyone encountering individuals stopping people at gunpoint should call 911.

While Roberts did note that 15 people have been arrested in the Level 2 and 3 evacuation zones since September 8, he said extra deputies are patrolling the evacuation areas and can be there within moments to help people.

Roberts also reiterated that law enforcement have not found any validity to the claims that antifa or people belonging to any political groups have been committing crimes in the area.

More Clackamas County evacuation levels lifted, reduced

1:35 p.m.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office lifted evacuation levels for the cities of Oregon City, Canby, and Sandy as of Wednesday afternoon. The City of Molalla is now at a Level 1 “Get Ready” evacuation level and the City of Estacada has been reduced to Level 2 “Get Set.”

Areas encompassing the Dowty Fire, Unger Fire, and Riverside Fire remain at Level 3 “Go Now,” and the Mt. Hood National Forest is still closed, according to the sheriff’s office.

See the updated evacuation map here.

Riverside Fire 3% contained

9:42 a.m.

Officials monitoring the Riverside Fire in Clackamas County said Wednesday the blaze is 3% contained but that a dry forecast could slow down firefighters’ efforts.

Crews are scheduled to continue to work Wednesday from the North Fork Reservoir near the community of Estacada to the Dickie Prairie area along the southwest edge of the fire — a stretch of more than 28 miles. They are tasked with building line in rugged terrain as well as beginning the process of ‘cold-trailing’ areas where a fire line has been in place for several days. Cold trailing is when firefighters take off their gloves and use their bare hand to feel for heat. If they feel heat, firefighters will continue to break up the heat source until it’s out and cold to the touch. If needed, they may also trench, or dig a small ditch below the fire on a hillside to catch any rolling debris that may hold heat.

“We currently have over 500 personnel assigned to the Riverside Fire including hand crews, engines, and bulldozers,” said Deputy Incident Commander, Dave Bales. “Their tireless work has helped us reach 3% containment as we continue to focus on protecting local communities.”

The fire area will continue to remain dry with no measurable precipitation anticipated for several days, according to officials. The weather–combined with record dry forest conditions–will continue to allow the fire to slowly creep in remote and backcountry areas such as the Roaring Fork Wilderness.  

Fight to contain Riverside Fire carries on

6:30 a.m.

Although the Riverside Fire continues to ravage thousands of acres in Clackamas County, fire officials say some containment is within reach.

As of Wednesday morning, the Riverside fire has burned more than 135,000 acres. Crews are fighting it on the west side, trying to keep it from tearing through Estacada and Molalla. Firefighters’ primary focus is on saving lives and property — meaning the eastern forested side of the fire is currently unmanned.

Farmers battle on as wildfires roar in Clackamas County. (Photo: Joe Rhoades)

Fire officials announced during a press conference Tuesday afternoon that three of the smaller fires (Wilhoit, Unger Road, and Graves Road) are 100% lined after burning a combined 1,131 acres. The Dowty Road fire is still only 30% lined at an estimated 1,452 acres. “Lined” does not mean the fires are completely out, though.

“We build the lines and then we have to patrol the lines looking for sources of heat,” Sinclair said. When crews are sure those lines will hold against any conditions, including wind, they will start calling those contained.

Another 400-acre spot fire broke out yesterday at the northern point, near Estacada. That means the fire jumped the previous containment line – and caught old logging slash on fire. Crews are conducting a 100-acre back-burn, which they say is the best way to contain it.

Overall, crews are making good progress on the northwestern side of the blaze. Fire officials confirm they will see containment lines there very soon since the northwest side is mainly hot and smoldering spots.

On the northeastern side, firefighters are continuing to scout and look at possible areas where they can have success. However, officials predict it will continue to slowly burn into the wilderness. To the south, the fire has moved rather fast over the past few days — but crews don’t anticipate it moving much further south Wednesday.

Even more out-of-state resources are on the way, as the Riverside inferno is the highest priority fire in the region. Planes or helicopters still cannot fly in the area due to the smoke, though officials do have drones up monitoring evolving smoke and fire conditions.

Clackamas County evacuations

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office lifted evacuation levels for the cities of Oregon City, Canby, and Sandy as of Wednesday afternoon. The City of Molalla is now at a Level 1 “Get Ready” evacuation level and the City of Estacada has been reduced to Level 2 “Get Set.”

Large areas of land east of Molalla remain under Level 3 “Go Now” evacuation orders.

“We know that there are those of you who have been evacuated who do want to return to your homes,” Clackamas County Disaster Management Director Nancy Bush said during Tuesday’s media briefing. “But please only return to the evacuated areas if you have been notified to do so by authorities.”

Curfews for areas under Level 1 “Be Ready” were lifted on Sunday; however, the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew will remain in effect for communities and areas under Level 2 and 3 evacuation orders.

Authorities asked people returning home to be cautious and check for the smell of gas right away. If it’s safe, people should inspect their homes, property and outbuildings carefully for any hot spots, embers or fire damage, Bush said.

Officials also reiterated their request for Clackamas County residents to conserve water for firefighters by turning off outdoor irrigation systems, taking shorter showers and using a broom, not a hose, to clean patios and sidewalks.

Estacada community ramps up relief efforts

While many businesses and restaurants are closed during these Level 3 evacuations in Estacada, Lew’s Drive-In is going to be ramping up their efforts providing hot meals to first responders and families.

The team and volunteers at Lew’s are preparing to make thousands of meals this week for free. 

“We have firefighters coming in from out of state now,” said Owner Marvin Flora. “They don’t know us and they’re risking their lives for us. What more could we do than feed them and give them as much love as we possibly can?”  

It’s fresh food for the front line — hot meals to fuel those battling the riverside blaze.

Estacada Community Watch volunteer coordinator Kim Thompson is one of many coordinating relief efforts for firefighters and displaced families.

“It has been so humbling a community as a town,” Thompson said. “[We] have people drive from out of state to drive hours in the middle of the night to bring us half a cow and a truck full of donations that were spilling out when we opened it.”

She says this relief  work will be for the long haul.

“It’s so far-reaching that our plan is not just temporary or immediate,” she said. “It is long term, short term housing, insurance help.”

The donations of food and resources have flooded in from far and wide, as everyone’s trying to help those impacted by the wildfire’s wrath — and their gratitude goes a long way.

“I want to thank everybody in Estacada,” Flora said. “This is all about the small-town USA, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

If you can share your time and energy — the Estacada Community Watch needs your help. If you have some spare change, they are also accepting financial donations.

Estacada Community Watch fire and evacuation updates

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